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Domestic abuse scheme protecting schoolchildren launched in Thurrock

Essex Police has launched a pilot scheme in Thurrock to help safeguard children who witness domestic abuse at home.

Specialist officers are working alongside a number of schools, academies and Thurrock Local Safeguarding Children Partnership Council by running an initiative called Operation Encompass until the end of this academic year.

The operation will involve officers noting whether children are present at domestic abuse incidents before asking for their details such as their names, ages and the schools they attend.

They will then inform a designated contact within a school that one of their students has recently experienced domestic abuse.

This will be done sensitively and in confidence.

Specific school contacts have received training to assess whether the children involved need further support.

This support could be overt or silent but will help children to remain in school and to continue learning in a safe and secure environment.

Principal Mark Jones, Chief Inspector David Miles and Angela Rawlings.

Chief Inspector David Miles, who is leading the trial, said: “Our officers attend domestic incidents every day where children are present and we need to ensure they are getting the best possible support.

“A child that experiences abuse within the home may bring behaviours into school that could result in a fall in grades, truancy or disciplinary action – when they actually need additional help.

“We want to inform schools as quickly as possible when one of their students has experienced a domestic incident in their home. We want to be their voice when they may not have one.

“This trial will allow us to fully assess the benefits of working more closely with schools before we consider introducing it to other educational establishments across other districts in Essex.

“I’d like to thank the Local Safeguarding Children Partnership and the schools involved, for supporting Op Encompass, which aims to help keep young people safer within our communities.”

Angela Rawlings, safeguarding officer at Belmont Castle Academy in Grays, said: “The safety of our children is paramount and we are delighted to be part of the pilot scheme for Operation Encompass in Thurrock.

“We understand that all types of domestic violence can have a detrimental effect on children, particularly their well-being, health and schooling.

“Children may arrive at school distressed, upset and unprepared for the day, this initiative helps us to provide support to children and parents who are experiencing domestic abuse at the earliest opportunity.”

The trial started on Thursday 2 January ahead of pupils return after the festive period.

Councillor James Halden, Thurrock Cabinet Member for Education and Health, said: “This is a fantastic example of how strong partnerships can help support children and young people who have experienced domestic abuse.

“By delivering joined up interventions for our pupils we can strengthen the emotional wellbeing of our young people, allowing students to access education, make academic progress and thrive.”

Jane Gardner, Deputy Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex and chair of the Southend, Essex and Thurrock Domestic Abuse Board, welcomed this initiative.

She said: “Breaking the cycle of domestic abuse is one of the priorities in Roger Hirst’s Police and Crime Plan.

“Working together with partners across the county, our objective is to help those who suffer in silence and reduce the impact on children and families. Domestic abuse has an impact on everyone in the family.

“I’m sure this project will make a huge difference to young people affected and will give them the support they need at the most crucial time.”

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